One of the few saving graces of being a Democrat is that we’re typically not anti-science. And then there’s Democratic Senator Harkin (who is very good on other issues). Along with Republican Senator Bill Frist, Harkin was the driving force behind the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). However, Harkin doesn’t like what NCCAM has found:
Sen. Tom Harkin, the proud father of the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, told a Senate hearing on Thursday that NCCAM had disappointed him by disproving too many alternative therapies.
“One of the purposes of this center was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short,” Harkin said.
The senator went on to lament that, since its inception in 1998, the focus of NCCAM has been “disproving things rather than seeking out and approving things.”
Skeptics have complained all along that Harkin and his allies founded this office to promote alternative therapies at public expense, not to test them scientifically. Harkin’s statement at the hearing explicitly confirms that hypothesis….
Over a decade later, Harkin’s disappointed that the NCCAM’s research is failing to confirm his biases.
Harkin doesn’t seem to realize that by publicly pressuring an ostensibly independent research center to produce positive results, he’s undermining the credibility of the center he worked so hard to create. If even if NCCAM does come up with positive results, Harkin’s giving the scientific community an excuse to discount that research as tainted.
What someone needs to point out to Harkin (although I doubt it would take) is that it’s unethical and immoral to treat disease with things that don’t work, particularly if there are options that do work. It’s not enough to show that there’s no ill effect of a treatment since ersatz treatments will crowd out effective ones.
Besides, as Lindsay notes, pressuring scientists will backfire. Just ask Republicans.
Lindsay has more.